Merry Christmas!

During this holiday season, more than ever, there’s been so much talking about trees.
It seems that the latest fad is positioning Christmas trees upside down. I have my doubts about the “medieval origins” of this “tradition” (as some suggested), but upside down trees definitely have a bizarre and surreal element which I do not dislike.

But here in Italy, and especially in Rome, we’ve been also talking about “Mangy” Christmas trees that fell short of everybody’s expectations.
Leaving all political issues aside, I would like to take these “deviant” trees as a pretext to wish you all a weird, nonconventional, offbeat Christmas.

And to do this, there’s nothing better that this funny little story, narrated by Tom Waits during one of his gigs.

Once upon a time in a forest, there were two trees: there was the crooked tree, and there was the straight tree. And all day long the straight tree would look over at the crooked tree, saying “Look at you, you’re crooked! You’re crooked — look at your branches, they’re crooked too! Even your leaves, they’re crooked! You’re probably crooked underground as well… but look at me. I’m tall. I’m straight. But you’re crooked!”
So one day… the lumberjacks came into the forest.
And they took a look around. And one of them said “Bob, cut off the straight trees.”
And that crooked tree is still there to this day, growing stronger, and stranger, every day.

Happy Holidays!

Links, curiosities & mixed wonders – 5

Here’s a gift pack of strange food for the mind and weird stuff that should keep you busy until Christmas.

  • You surely remember Caitlin Doughty, founder  of the Order of the Good Death as well as author of best-seller Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. In the past I interviewd her, I wrote a piece for the Order, and I even flew to Philadelphia to meet her for a three-day conference.
    Caitlin is also famous for her ironic videos on the culture of death. The latest episode is dedicated to a story that will surely sound familiar, if you follow this blog: the story of the ‘Punsihed Suicide’ of Padua, which was published for the first time in my book His Anatomical Majesty.
    With her trademark humor, Caitlin succeeds in asking what in my view is the fundamental question: is it worth judging a similar episode by our contemporary ethical standards, or is it better to focus on what this tale can tell us about our history and about the evolution of sensibility towards death?

  • In 1966 a mysterious box washed up on a British shore: it contained swords, chandeliers, red capes, and a whole array of arcane symbols related to occultism. What was the function of these objects, and why were they left to the waves?
  • While we’re at it, here is an autopsy photograph from the 1920s, probably taken in Belgium. Was pipe smoking a way of warding off the bad smell?
    (Seen here, thanks again Claudia!)

  • A new photographic book on evolution is coming out, and it looks sumptuous. Robert Clark’s wonderful pictures carry a disquieting message: “Some scientists who study evolution in real time believe we may be in the midst of the world’s sixth mass extinction, a slow-motion funnel of death that will leave the planet with a small fraction of its current biodiversity. One reason that no one can forecast how it will end—and who will be left standing—is that, in many ways, our understanding of evolution itself continues to evolve“.
  • But don’t get too alarmed: our world might eventually be just an illusion. Sure, this concept is far from new: all the great spiritual, mythological or artistic messages have basically been repeating us for millennia that we should not trust our senses, suggesting ther is more to this reality than meets the eye. Yet, up until now, no one had ever tried to prove this mathematically. Until now.
    A cognitive science professor at the University of California elaborated an intriguing model that is causing a bit of a fuss: his hypothesis is that our perception has really nothing to do with the world out there, as it is; our sensory filter might not have evolved to give us a realistic image of things, but rather a convenient one. Here is an article on the Atlantic, and here is a podcast in which our dear professor quietly tears down everything we think we know about the world.
  • Nonsense, you say? What if I told you that highly evolved aliens could already be among us — without the need for a croncrete body, but in the form of laws of physics?

Other brilliant ideas: Goodyear in 1961 developed these illuminated tires.

  • Mariano Tomatis’ Blog of Wonders is actually Bizzarro Bazar’s less morbid, but more magical twin. You could spend days sifting through the archives, and always come up with some pearl you missed the first time: for example this post on the hidden ‘racism’ of those who believe Maya people came from outer space (Italian only).
  • In Medieval manuscripts we often find some exceedingly unlucky figures, which had the function of illustrating all possible injuries. Here is an article on the history and evolution of the strange and slightly comic Wound Man.

  • Looking at colored paint spilled on milk? Not really a mesmerizing thought, until you take four minutes off and let yourself be hypnotized by Memories of Painting, by Thomas Blanchard.

  • Let’s go back to the fallacy of our senses, ith these images of the Aspidochelone (also called Zaratan), one of the fantastical beasts I adored as a child. The idea of a sea monster so huge that it could be mistaken for an island, and on whose back even vegetation can grow, had great fortune from Pliny to modern literature:

  • But the real surprise is to find that the Zaratan actually exists, albeit in miniature:

  • Saddam Hussein, shortly after his sixtieth birthday, had 27 liters of his own blood taken just to write a 600-page calligraphied version of the Quran.
    An uncomfortable manuscript, so much so that authorities don’t really know what to do with it.
  • Time for a couple of Christmas tips, in case you want to make your decorations slightly menacing: 1) a set of ornaments featuring the faces of infamous serial killers, namely Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey DahmerEd Gein and H. H. Holmes; 2) a murderous Santa Claus. Make your guests understand festivities stress you out, and that might trigger some uncontrolled impulse. If you wish to buy these refined, tasteful little objects, just click on pictures to go to the corresponding Etsy store. You’re welcome.

  • Finally, if you run out of gift ideas for Christmas and you find yourself falling back on the usual book, at least make sure it’s not the usual book. Here are four random, purely coincidental examples…
    Happy holidays!

(Click on image to open bookshop)

Merry Christmas!

Buon natale

This year I wanted my Christmas greetings to be a little more intimate and heartfelt.

That’s why I decided to make this minipost only visible to those who proved their interest by subrscribing to email updates or following my site via WordPress. It’s my way of thanking you, because being able to count on regular readers engourages me to improve and to keep on sharing the wonders I encounter during my researches.

If you enjoy the blog, you could consider making a small donation through PayPal using this link.
But the best way to support my work is to buy (for yourself or for a friend) the books in the Bizzarro Bazar Collection: you can find them in the official bookshop on Libri.it or on Amazon. And yes, they’re both in Italian and English.

I wish you a happy Christmas and… Keep The World Weird!

Buon Natale BB

Christmas presents – II

Has the consumistic frenzy infected you yet, like every year? Are you panicking at the last minute, wiping out every good idea and whatever creativity has left you? All the other presents seem more original than yours?
Here are some gift ideas from Bizzarro Bazar.

Survival stockings
This year we haven’t heard any prophecy about the end of the world but, as you know, the Apocalypse is always near. So here is the perfect tactical stocking to hang by the fireplace, fully-equipped with pockets for your ninja weapons, handles, snap-hooks, velcro and zippers, designed to hold every essential MacGyver tool.

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tactical-christmas-stocking-8464RuckUp Christmas Tactical Stocking

Half pint
Speaking of survival, it should be noted that the festive period always deliver a hard blow to your liver. If this year you’re considering the idea of limiting your alcohol assumption, but you fear you will lose your face with your friends, here is the clever half pint glass that looks like a pint glass, when seen from the side.

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half-pint-glass-_1_Thumbs Up Half Pint Glass

Zombie slippers
With the first cold, there is nothing better than slip your feet in something warm. Even better if it is the mouth of a zombie, quietly gnawing on your ankles as you relax by the fireplace.

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VENKON – Calde Pantofole di Peluche a Disegno Zombie

Calendars to your (bad) taste
Wonders of Christmas: we are bound to give a present even to people we cannot stand. Most of the times we then resort to the most trivial and impersonal gift there can be, the calendar. But why not pushing things a little further, and spoil the whole year 2016 for your worst enemy?
One solution could be those calendars which redefine the concept of bad taste: the one offering monthly pictures of dogs pooping, or the roadkill calendar.

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2016 Pooping Pooches Calendar

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Roadkill Calendar 2016

And, after the calendars for enemies, here are those for friends. Still weird, but with a much more refined irony, the Crap Taxidermy wall calendar presents the most hilarious taxidermy gone wrong.

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201600000966_4Crap Taxidermy 2016 Wall Calendar

The calendar from our friends at Morbid Anatomy, on the other hand, is a thing of pure beauty. It features photographs exploring the collections from 12 different Museums all around the world, and on its pages  someimportant dates for the lovers of macabre are noted, such as Edward Gorey‘s birth, the Dia de los Muertos or the Santa Muerte festivities.

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Morbid Anatomy Curious Collections 2016 Wall Calendar

Candles
Another classic present, if a bit corny, are artistic candles. The ones we suggest here are granted to surprise those who light them up.

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melting-reindeer-skeleton-candles-3577PyroPet Candles Dyri Candle, Light Blue

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Dinosaur Egg Candle

Flower grenade
In this time of warlike tensions, it’s time to go back putting flowers in your guns. You can do it in your own garden, throwing this grenade made of clay that is designed to melt with the first rain, releasing its seeds and granting the blooming of lively colors from this instrument of death.

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7745Flower Grenade

Christmas songs
Lastly, what would Christmas be without traditional songs? This year you can delight your relatives coming over to lunch with a playlist of Christmas melodies performed (or, better, shouted) by goats. Surprisingly, behind this project there is the charity action of ActionAid, aiming to raise awareness of the importance of goats in the fight to poverty. Enjoying your relatives’ dismay as you know deep in your heart that you have done a good deed, is really invaluable.

All I Want For Christmas Is A Goat

Buon Natale!

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Come ogni anno rinnoviamo gli auguri a tutti i lettori di Bizzarro Bazar.

Siamo consci però che, fra i suddetti lettori, ci sono molte persone per le quali le luci, gli addobbi e la festosità saranno sempre venati di un po’ di malinconia: per questo vorremmo dedicare un pensiero e un abbraccio virtuale a tutti coloro che dovranno passare per la prima volta il Natale senza una persona cara, o che l’hanno già persa in questo periodo, non importa quanti anni fa.
Che i bei ricordi siano il caldo focolare di quest’inverno! E chi vuol esser lieto, sia

Buone feste!

Buon Natale!

Auguri a tutti i lettori di Bizzarro Bazar!

Quest’anno, per le festività, vi deliziamo con una piccola chicca firmata Ciriak, uno dei nostri animatori preferiti che avete imparato a conoscere per le sue animazioni folli e surreali. Buone feste, e… keep the world weird!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4ep3OIIKcM&feature=player_embedded]

Nota: la fotografia finale ritrae Noel Edmonds, noto personaggio televisivo inglese, autore di alcune trasmissioni di Natale e convinto spiritualista.

Bizzarro Bazar a New York – II

Come resistere alla tentazione dello shopping a New York, quando la città si riveste di luci natalizie e le vetrine dei negozi divengono delle vere e proprie opere d’arte? In questo secondo, ed ultimo, post sulla Grande Mela ci occupiamo quindi di negozi – ma se vi aspettate che vi parliamo di Tiffany o di Macy’s, siete fuori strada.

Da quando Maxilla & Mandible ha chiuso i battenti (senza avvertire nessuno – sul sito nemmeno un cenno al fatto che il negozio è dismesso) sono poche le botteghe ancora aperte che possono offrire oggetti da collezione naturalistica: Evolution Store è però la punta di diamante di questo strano tipo di esercizio.

Uno scheletro sull’uscio ci avverte del tono generale del negozio, e la vetrina già lascia a bocca aperta: kapala istoriati, teschi di feti umani disposti secondo l’età raggiunta in utero, grandi pavoni impagliati. Non ci sono vie di mezzo – o alzate gli occhi al cielo e proseguite per la vostra strada, o vi fiondate oltre la porta d’ingresso.

All’interno, la cornucopia di oggetti assale i sensi. Ci sono scheletri e teschi di animali di ogni specie, tutti in vendita, esemplari tassidermici, altri sotto alcol, ninnoli e portachiavi ricavati da ossa autentiche. Insomma, troverete il regalo di Natale giusto per chiunque.

E per i vostri bambini più indisciplinati quest’anno, al posto del solito vecchio carbone, Babbo Natale potrebbe lasciare sotto l’albero una nuova sorpresa: leccalecca con scorpioni e altri insetti incorporati.

Al piano superiore i titolari espongono i pezzi di maggior valore della loro collezione. Spicca una serie di scheletri umani, di cui uno femminile che ospita nel grembo uno scheletro fetale fissato in posizione di gravidanza. E poi ancora maschere tribali, teste rimpicciolite, uova di dinosauro, pietre preziose, animali impagliati o essiccati, fossili, coralli, farfalle multicolori e insetti esotici.

I prezzi non sono sempre popolari, ma nemmeno esorbitanti, e variano considerevolmente a seconda delle vostre esigenze. Comunque, se non volete spendere troppo, gli impiegati e i gestori del negozio, tutti accomunati dalla classica gentilezza newyorkese, saranno più che felici di impacchettarvi uno squalo sotto alcol (solo $29) o l’osso del pene di qualche mammifero ($6).

Sbucando con la metro all’East Village si entra in una dimensione totalmente diversa. Le foglie in questa stagione si fanno gialle e risaltano sulle pareti in mattoni e fra le scale antincendio esterne, che abbiamo visto in innumerevoli film. Qui, dalle parti di Cooper Union, c’è St. Mark’s Place, una stradina dedicata ai tatuaggi, ai piercing e all’abbigliamento punk e glam. Residuati della no-future generation, ormai cinquantenni ma ancora orgogliosamente imborchiati e dai (radi) capelli dipinti, gestiscono piccoli negozi di oggettistica e fashion. Anche se non siete tipi da creste e catene, vi consigliamo comunque di farvi un giro all’interno del negozio di vintage e usato Search & Destroy – se non altro per dare un’occhiata al delirante allestimento del negozio.

Qui i vestiti sono quasi nascosti da un’accozzaglia di giocattoli, props e collectibles: e se all’entrata siete salutati da bambole con la maschera antigas, modellini anatomici e feti deformi in gomma, all’interno i toni si fanno ancora più splatter. Un finto maiale sgozzato a grandezza naturale è appeso al soffitto, dal quale penzola anche un manichino fetish in posizione di bondage. Un flipper sta vicino a maschere di carnevale di mostri iperrealistici e sanguinosi. Ovunque manichini in pose oscene e, particolare non trascurabile, dalle parti genitali correttamente rappresentate. Purtroppo i gestori orientali sono (giustamente) gelosi del loro arredamento e ci permettono di scattare soltanto qualche foto.

Poco più avanti, sempre qui all’East Village, sulla decima strada, si trova uno dei negozi più celebri: si tratta di Obscura Antiques & Oddities.

Da quando Obscura è al centro di una serie televisiva di Discovery Channel (di cui vi avevamo parlato in questo articolo), il piccolo spazio espositivo è perennemente affollato. E la gente compra, il giro di affari è in stabile crescita e di conseguenza la collezione è in continuo cambiamento.

Obscura è l’analogo newyorkese del nostro Nautilus, anche se gli manca quella maniacale e coreografica cura espositiva che Alessandro ha donato alla sua bottega delle meraviglie. D’altronde Mike ci racconta che stanno per trasferirsi in uno spazio più grande, dove finalmente la collezione potrà evitare di essere accatastata e un po’ disordinata com’è adesso. Comunque sia, i pezzi sono davvero straordinari e l’atmosfera unica.

Fra tutti spicca la testa mummificata divenuta un po’ il simbolo di Obscura, tanto da farne delle minuscole repliche per portachiavi.

Ma le sorprese sono tante, e fra scheletri umani, strani animali, oggetti di antiquariato medico e bizzarrie in tutto e per tutto ascrivibili alla tradizione denominata Americana, si potrebbe perdere una buona oretta a curiosare.

Mike ed Evan, la strana coppia di proprietari, sono fra le persone più gentili e disponibili del mondo, talmente colti e appassionati che è una goduria anche solo rimanere ad ascoltarli mentre rispondono alle domande più stravaganti dei clienti. Il giro di collezionismo legato ad Obscura è impressionante, ma di certo anche voi riuscirete a trovare almeno un regalino per chi, fra i vostri conoscenti, ha già davvero tutto.